From a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired chapel in the Ozark Mountains to antebellum homes along the Mississippi River, the American South is home to historical, awe-inspiring works of architecture. Here’s where to see some of the best.
Thorncrown Chapel, Arkansas
This stunning chapel, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, sits in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in northwestern Arkansas. Designed by renowned architect E. Fay Jones, Thorncrown Chapel rises nearly 50 feet over 100 tons of native stone and contains 425 windows and more than 6,000 square feet of glass, offering stunning views of the surrounding Ozark landscape. The chapel is free to visit and has ample parking space for buses and RVs.
Another option: Head to historic Hot Springs National Park in southwestern Arkansas to see the iconic structures on Bathhouse Row, completed between 1892 and 1923 to take advantage of the area’s thermal springs.
Union Station, Tennessee
This iconic building—now a Marriott Autograph hotel—is located just west of downtown Nashville and served as a railroad terminal for nearly 80 years after it was built in 1900. Union Station is a great example of Romanesque Revival architecture—look for the high towers and turrets that are reminiscent of a castle—and the interior includes three crystal chandeliers, marble floors and a 65-foot-tall stained glass ceiling in the lobby.
Another option: Did you know there’s a full-scale replica of Greece’s famous Parthenon—complete with a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena—in the middle of Nashville’s Centennial Park? The Parthenon (the Tennessee version) was originally constructed in 1897 for the state’s Centennial Exposition and now serves as Nashville’s art museum.
Antebellum homes, Mississippi
Natchez, which sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in the southwestern part of the state, was once home to the most millionaires per capita in the United States. Proof of this wealth still exists today in the antebellum homes of the Bluff City—many of which are open for tours and can still be toured during the annual Spring and Fall Pilgrimage. Popular homes include Stanton Hall, a Greek Revival-style home, and Longwood, a unique octagonal home that was never finished. Natchez National Historic Park includes the site of the former Fort Rosalie, as well as two notable antebellum homes: The William Johnson House and Melrose.
Another option: Arguably Mississippi’s most iconic site, the Windsor Ruins (located near the Mississippi River 40 miles (65km) north of Natchez) are the remnants of an antebellum home that burned down in the 1890s—all that remains today are 23 towering Corinthian columns.
Charpentier Historic District, Louisiana
Covering 40 blocks in downtown Lake Charles (located in southwestern Louisiana), the Charpentier Historic District features one of the finest collections of Victorian architecture in Louisiana, dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The district takes its name from the architects and builders (“charpentier” is French for “carpenter”) who freely designed as they built, creating a unique, mixed style with homes that include turrets, towers, gables, leaded glass and gingerbread accents on porches and railings. Visitors can take a walking or driving tour of the area and learn more with a downloadable app.
Another option: Head to Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge to see two unique government buildings. Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, constructed in the 1840s and 1850s, is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is now a museum, and the current 34-story state capitol, built in 1931, is the tallest capitol building in the United States.